Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Complications

November 26, 2:00 a.m.

I sleepily roll over and open my eyes. The night is dark and between the steady drumming of rain on our tin roof I can detect the rustling sound of the curtains in the breeze.

Hurricane Sandy sweeping by west of us has been showering Haiti with residual rain since early Wednesday morning. 

The temperature, dropping down to a record low of 23 degrees had us scrambling for coats and sweatshirts. The excess moisture in the air gave everything a damp, musty feel; our bedsheets felt wet, our clothes were clammy, Jayden's homework papers lay limply on his desk, while the three words written on our kitchen white board smudged all on their own. Even our wooden doors became water logged and difficult to open.

Schools and businesses had been closed since early Thursday morning with no signs of reopening yet. It wasn't the winds that were really the problem since the hurricane was far enough away, but the nonstop rain just wasn't letting up. With the mountains' lack of tree cover, rain water just washed down dirt slopes unimpeded causing the rivers to rise and cities to flood.

After a silent prayer for any and all affected by the rain I doze off again; morning is still several hours away.

5:45 a.m.
The cell phone alarm hasn't gone off yet but both Jason and I are wide awake. Today is the day we hope to fly into Pignon but with this inclement weather the possibility of that actually happening is slim to none. Nevertheless we both get up and get the boys ready.

An hour later we drive down the quiet streets to the airport. Looking out the window I watch the rain continue to drizzle down, futilely trying to rid the capital of her filth.

Inside the vehicle, the two brothers hold hands. Whatever adventures awaits, they are in it together.

When we reach the domestic terminal a line up of people are waiting outside. We unload our backpacks in the rain and then wait under the overhang for the terminal doors to be unlocked. Once inside, I watch as two airport workers try to operate the X-ray scanner but to no avail. Finally they sheepishly wave the pilots through and somewhat reluctantly begin to search passengers and luggage.

Although the process is slow going, at this point I'm just thankful they showed up for work at all.

As Jason heads out through the tarmac to the MAF office, I wait in the terminal for our flight to Pignon with the two boys and Edith, a HFL (Hungry for Life) project manager who had arrived on an American Airlines flight the day before.

Looking through the glass doors of the terminal I notice the drizzling cloud layer is not lifting. "I hope the Westeringhs will be able to land with American Airlines," I say to Edith and she nods. I pull out Jayden's practice math and reading notebooks and pass them to him; might as well give him something to do while we wait. Justin is hungry so once Jayden is working on his school work, I get busy mixing formula, cereal, fruit and water for his breakfast.

Two hours later the weather still isn't looking any better. IFR (Instrument Flight Regulation) flights like American Airlines are able to land, but at this point it's not safe for any VFR (Visual Flight Regulation) flights to come or go. When Jason's cell phone data shows that American Airlines has landed he heads over to the international terminal to pick up the Westeringhs. It's a relief to know they've landed safe and sound.

A half an hour later, after getting reacquainted, the question pressing on all our minds is raised. Since it's unsafe to fly, what do we do now? Should we hope the weather clears and wait for a later flight or should we attempt the 4 hour drive to Pignon instead?

"Our vehicle has four wheel drive, so let's try to drive there," Jason decides. "We're kind of pressed for time and to get all our meetings finished it would be beneficial if we could get there sooner than later. Who knows how long this weather will last?"

We all agree that this is the best option and head to our home so the Westeringhs can drop of their suitcases. The weather hasn't gotten any better but there are more people out and about now. The drive that took us 10 minutes this morning takes 35 minutes now.

Once at home we quickly get organized. It takes a bit of skillful maneuvering to fit nine of us and our personal belongings in our 8 passenger vehicle but we make it work. With a quick stop at Eagle Market for snacks and drinks we are on our way. Traffic on Delmas is even busier now.

"Where are all these people going when schools and businesses are closed?" I wonder out loud.

As we reach the outskirts of the city, traffic thins. 

The dirt and grime of the rambling city disappears, replaced by small bushes and rugged mountains. 

Leaning forward I do my best to photograph the changing landscape.

An hour later when we reach a look out area we pull over for a quick break. The scenery is beautiful, a breath of fresh air in comparison to the crowded capital we left behind.

 This section of the road between Port au Prince and Hinche is paved and the going is smooth. The final stretch from Hinche to Pignon is a different story though. The section has been worked on, but is not paved yet. With the heavy rains in the last few days it's become one giant mud run.

 Pushing a few buttons Jason switches to four wheel drive and we start plowing through. 

We watch in amazement at the motorcycles slipping their way past us. All pedestrians on this stretch are holding their shoes in their hands and making their way barefoot through the mud.

Two hours later after motoring through 15 miles of mud we reach our destination; the mission outpost of United Christians International (UCI).

Jean Jean and Kristie the founders of UCI are there to welcome us and we quickly unload. Once we've had a quick snack we get ready for the tour. In the five years they've been in Haiti they've set up a church, a school, an agriculture program and most recently a university. 

It's incredible to see the progress they've made since the last time we've visited. It's also exciting to introduce Hungry for Life an organization based out of Canada that comes along side mission groups in other parts of the world and introduces and connects them to churches and individuals in Canada.

A traditional meal of rice and bean sauce and red onion sauce is served at 5:00 p.m. which we all enjoy. 
After dinner the ladies in the neighborhood take turns holding my very white skinned, blue eyed baby. 

Walking back to the guesthouse the sun begins to lower in the still cloudy sky.

Right before it sets, it glows once more.  A final burst of red and orange splendor.

I sit and watch till the night grows dark. Then tired from the days events I slowly get ready for bed.

Just as I'm dozing off I notice a cockroach running over my pillow. Without any ado, I sleepily brush him off. These past four years have changed me I think.

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